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How recycling can help Uganda tackle unemployment, poor waste managment

FILE PHOTO: Aquila Investment’s yard on the edge of Kiteezi landfill clogged with piles of used plastic bottles. Ugandan plastics recycling entrepreneurs are pondering their next market . INDEPENDENT/RONALD MUSOKE

March 18th was day world celebrated Global Recycling efforts 

COMMENT | Hillary Turyatunga | The Global Recycling Day was started in 2018 by the Global Recycling Foundation to help recognize and celebrate the importance of recycling in preserving earth’s natural resources. It is celebrated on 18th March every year.

This year’s virtual celebrations were under the theme “Remembering the Recycling Heroes” with a main aim of recognizing the people, places and activities that showcase the importance of recycling in preserving natural resources.

The earth’s natural resources responsible for man’s existence are finite and are rapidly running out yet we continue to distance ourselves from the thought of what will replace them once they are depleted. It is therefore important to acknowledge that recycling does not only combat climate change and conserve the earth’s primary resources but is also able to boost the local employment around the world.

In Uganda, around 600 metric tons of plastic waste are generated according to ‘Takataka’ – a local firm that uses locally made machines to recycle plastics into construction materials.

Most of this waste is either burnt releasing lethal carcinogens, toxins and carbon dioxide into the environment or dumped into landfills where it will take about 10-100 years to decompose. Worth still, some plastics are littered and never directed into landfills, such then end up in water bodies where they pose danger to marine animals when they ingest them or become tangled in them.

In Kampala city alone, an estimated 51% of the garbage is left uncollected, a possible reason behind the frequent clogging of sewage systems. Such waste therefore is an untapped resource, one that we can put to use, benefiting both our economy and environment.

According to Global Green Growth Institute -GGGI Uganda value chain mapping report, there are over 30 firms registered as recycling companies in Uganda. However, most of these firms work on a very small scale due to resource constraint factor.

Govt intervention needed

There is an urgent need therefore for the government and relevant agencies to form partnerships with these firms to boost up the recycling processes, create green jobs and divert waste away from landfills. For example, by increasing the pay given to the informal casual waste collectors for every kilogram of plastic collected, we are both incentivizing recycling and helping those below the poverty line

Efforts aimed at sensitizing the public on the importance of proper waste management are necessary, but what is most important is supporting the public to actively tackle these concerns. The common high level closed door talks in environmental dialogues and seminars without an action on ground will only manage to delay the environment on the justice it deserves.

In conclusion, every firm that rethinks what we throw away – in it seeing not waste, but opportunities, deserves any possible support there is, because globally, recycling helps in reducing carbon emissions by over 700 million tones every year while notably employing over 1.6 million people.

With Uganda facing both high unemployment rates and poor waste management systems, a concern that puts both the people and environment at a high risk, supporting recycling firms to operate on a bigger scale would help tackle both challenges at once.


Hillary Turyatunga is an Oil and Gas intern, Environmental and natural resource governance program ACODE

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